By Shawn Rine – The Wheeling Intelligencer and News-Register for WVMetroNews.com

 

Class A

No. 10 Wheeling Central at No. 7 Cameron

CAMERON –  A pair of OVAC small-school heavyweights will find themselves face-to-face when the West Virginia prep football postseason kicks off Friday night. Coach Mike Young and Wheeling Central (6-4) will take the long, winding trip to Cameron (9-1) to battle Coach Scott Holt and the Dragons, who are 19-1 in their last 20 regular-season games.

It’s certainly not an ideal matchup as neither school wants to see a neighbor eliminated in the first round of action. But the reality of the situation, is that one won’t play again after this weekend.

“It’s definitely a tough first-round draw, but we told the kids you can either complain about your luck, having to host one of the three or four best teams in Class A, or accept what it is and go out and give your all,ã Holt said. “We know that all eyes will be on Cameron Friday night and that this is a big game, but it also is a great opportunity.”

The Dragons have won six games in a row since their only loss at Shenandoah, and are coming off a 65-0 mauling of Hannan last week.

Young’s Maroon Knights thumped Oak Glen by a 65-7 margin to close out their regular season that same night. It was the third straight win for Central, which has played a daunting schedule that includes five teams with at least seven wins, five playoff teams as well as powerful Linsly, and seven squads with winning records.

Tyson Murray, WVMetroNews.com

Wheeling Central enters the postseason at 6-4, but riding a lot of late season momentum.

“It’s been a long season of growing and maturing,” Young said. “It was a very challenging first half of the season, but we just did our best to keep the kids together. There are a lot of expectations here at Central, but you can’t have people pointing fingers after a slow start. You have got to stay grounded and continue to improve.

“I think what we did this year, with the schedule we played, that it is a huge tribute to all of the coaches and the kids. We raised the bar this year to get where we are now, and we have been rewarded. We just need to continue to improve on blocking and tackling.”

Sophomore quarterback Curtis McGhee III has certainly matured for Central. He has thrown for 1,079 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Senior Dawson Wear has rushed for 786 yards and nine touchdowns while Bray Price (27-461-7) and Anthony Robbins (25-351-7) have been on the receiving end of most of McGheeás completions.

While the Maroon Knights spread the wealth in last weekás blowout victory, they still rushed for 305 yards and six touchdowns, racing to a 27-0 lead after a quarter and 53-7 at the break.

“If you are looking for a weakness in that football team, you had better look real hard,” Holt said. “They have such a talented backfield, they are big on the line and they have two outstanding receivers. It is just so hard to find any weaknesses and they can attack you from everywhere.

“With their schedule and their history, it almost makes you look at them and you want to apologize for everyone else. It’s a tough draw, but we are at home and that means a lot.

“Another big factor could be that it will only be their third game on grass, and when you add in a small, enclosed field with a rough and loud atmosphere, maybe that gives us a small edge.”

Cameron’s offense, led by senior quarterback Colby Brown, doesn’t have to take a backseat to anyone. The Dragons enter as the highest-scoring Class-A team in the state and the third-highest overall. The only teams that have scored more than Holt’s bunch are Martinsburg (the No. 2 seed in Class AAA) and Mingo Central (the No. 1 seed in Class AA).

Brown has completed 79 of 130 passes for 1,543 yards, 27 touchdowns and five interceptions, and has a pair of lanky receivers leading the way in Travis Mickey and Robert Milliken. That duo combined for seven catches for 154 yards and three scores a week ago.

Junior Andrew Ritchea has had a huge second-half of the season and sits 3 yards shy of 1,000 on the ground for the campaign. Ritchea has also made 13 trips to the end zone.

Both Brown (12 of 15, 246 yards and six TDs) and Ritchea (158-td) had big games in the season finale.

“They are very well coached,” Young said. “We know Scotty from his time here, and he has done a good job wherever he has been. He has a very good football mind and his team is well disciplined with great balance.

“That team plays hard for him and his coaches on both sides of the football and you have to be able to take advantage of any opportunity you get to put points on the board.

“I believe that both teams have a lot of respect for each other and this is going to be a very good, well-fought football game. We know that we will be facing a battle over there, but we will just have to wait and see what happens.”

 

Class AAA

No. 11 Wheeling Park at No. 6 Capital

CHARLESTON – For the third time in the last four seasons, Wheeling Park are set to meet on the postseason stage. Coach Chris Daugherty’s Patriots (6-4) make the trip south Friday night to engage Coach John Carpenter’s Cougars at the University of Charleston’s Laidley Field.

“Capital looks like the same Capital team as always – big and athletic,” Chris Daugherty said. “In 2014, they were the best team in West Virginia and everyone kind of agreed upon that. We had some good games against Capital.

“But they are always big and always athletic with good team speed. We’ve had our nights when we didn’t look ourselves and they had their nights when they didn’t look themselves. If their team shows up and our team shows up, it should be a very good game.”

The Patriots are riding a three-game winning streak, with their latest victory coming against long-time rival John Marshall. The Monarchs also clinched a playoff spot and needed to win to secure a home game. Wheeling Park had other plans, winning 42-28 to send John Marshall on the road to face Parkersburg.

“I thought it was the first time we played with real emotion in a while,” Daugherty said. “And football is an emotional sport … that’s what makes good teams great.

“I thought our kids played with a lot of enthusiasm and we were physical and we will have to be physical again this week.”

The Patriots running game was highlighted by Donnie Evans and Rennie Clark. Evans scampered for 165 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries while Clark compiled 105 and two scores on 13 attempts. Cross Wilkinson was 12 of 21 for 168 yards with one touchdown and and one interception in his final regular-season game as a Patriot.

On the season, Wilkinson eclipsed 2,000 passing yards again with 2,144 and 17 touchdowns. Evans leads the rushing attack with 1,029 yards and 15 touchdowns while Clark has 819 and nine scores.

Nate Phillips if featured in a solid receiving corps as he has 635 yards and five touchdowns on 40 catches. Jack Stakem has made a name for himself as he has hauled in 36 receptions and 570 yards with a team-high seven touchdowns.

“I think we are going to have to mix it up offensively,” Daugherty said. “And we will have to throw. You can’t be one sided and beat them (Capital). Defensively we have to contain their quarterback.”

Daugherty is talking about Cougars signal caller Kerry Martin. While throwing for 2,012 yard and 26 touchdowns, he is also the team’s leading rusher. The junior has run for 763 yards and found the end zone 14 times on 118 attempts.

Quieshan Gray has also been solid in the backfield as he has netted 597 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony Pittman leads Capital in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns (30 for 608 yards and 12 scores). Deshawn Harper will also be a threat as he has 24 receptions for 545 yards and four touchdowns.

“It seems like their best play is a broken play.” Daugherty said. “When things break down, they can make a play. We have to try and eliminate the big, explosive plays that they rely on and see what happens.”

 

No. 10 John Marshall at No. 7 Parkersburg

PARKERSBURG – If it feels like 2007 all over again for John Marshall fans, there’s a reason for that. The last time the Monarchs made the postseason – 10 years ago – their run was abruptly halted in a 35-0 loss to eventual state champion Parkersburg.

Fast forward, and Coach Rick Goodrich is taking JM (7-3) back to Stadium field for another opening-round matchup with the Big Reds (7-3).

After rolling off six consecutive victories but in need of one more to clinch a home playoff contest this weekend, John Marshall dropped a hard-to-swallow, 42-28 decision to arch-rival Wheeling Park last Friday night in Moundsville. That came after the Monarchs defense had allowed 74 total points during their run, and not more than 20 to any of the six teams they defeated.

“Wheeling Park just came out and took it to us,” Goodrich admitted. “They were more physical on both sides of the football, but hopefully in the long run, that game will be a wake-up call for us.”

Coach Mike Byus’ Parkersburg club, which has won three in a row and 6 of 7 to secure a home game, found itself in a similar position last week, trailing rival Parkersburg South by two touchdowns. However, the Big Reds managed to rally for a 27-24 victory.

“That game was a microcosm of our entire season,” Byus said. “We hang around, stay close and eventually find a way to win in the end. But we got the win and a home game, and you can’t ask for much more than that.”

Getting back on track for the Monarchs means getting their rushing game going, led by senior standout Dereck Hess. The John Marshall running back had averaged 141 yards a game entering last week, however, Wheeling Park’s big early lead forced the Monarchs to go to the air, limiting Hess to 24 yards on seven carries.

Hess still enters this week’s contest having rushed for 1,301 yards and 19 touchdowns. Quarterback Jordan Wood went over 1,000 yards passing for the year with his biggest output of the campaign against the Patriots. Wood completed 21 of 37 passes for 252 yards and three scores while being picked off three times. Overall, the Monarchs were held to 78 rushing stripes by Park.

“John Marshall is a very physical bunch that has a good, down-hill rushing attack,” Byus said. “They are a very good, fundamentally sound football team.”

Offensively, Parkersburg’s balanced attack is led by quarterback Kam Mace and the elusiveness of running back Tyler Moler, who was a workhorse with 38 carries for 155 yards and two scores against South.

For the season, Moler has similar numbers to Hess with 193 carries for 1,271 yards and 17 touchdowns. Mace, meanwhile, has completed 127 of 191 passes for 1,814 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. He averaged 227 yards a game for an offense that is putting up 35 points a contest.

Mace has a pair of big-play receivers in Brenton Strange, who has 50 grabs for 811 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Jake Johnson has caught 38 passes for 617 and two scores. Johnson is a multi-talented player, having also thrown for 337 yards and being one of the teamás biggest defensive threats.

The Big Reds have rushed for 1,750 yards while throwing for 2,151.

“They are a good, very solid group,” Goodrich said. “They have a very good running back, some tall, physical wide receivers, a quarterback that does a good job getting them the football and a big offensive line.

“On defense they are very aggressive and blitz almost every down and they try and confuse you on both sides of the ball. No question, we are definitely going to have our hands full.”

“John Marshall is a very physical bunch that has a good, down-hill rushing attack,” Byus mentioned. “They are a very good, fundamentally sound football team.”

Offensively, Parkersburg’s balanced attack is led by quarterback Kam Mace and the elusiveness of running back Tyler Moler, who was a workhorse with 38 carries for 155 yards and two scores against South.

For the season Moler has similar numbers to Hess with 193 carries for 1,271 yards and 17 touchdowns. Mace, meanwhile, has completed 127-of-191 passes for 1,814 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. He averaged 227 yards a game for an offense that is putting up 35 points a contest.

Mace has a pair of big-play receivers in Brenton Strange, who has 50 grabs for 811 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Jake Johnson has caught 38 passes for 617 and two scores. Johnson is a multi-talented commodity, having also thrown for 337 yards and being one of the team’s biggest defensive threats.

The Big Reds have rushed for 1,750 yards on the season as a team while throwing for 2,151.

“They are a good, very solid group,” Goodrich said of the Big Reds. “They have a very good running back, some tall, physical wide receivers, a quarterback that does a good job getting them the football and a big offensive line.

“On defense they are very aggressive and blitz almost every down and they try and confuse you on both sides of the ball. No question, we are definitely going to have our hands full.”

Byus, whose team owns a come-from-behind victory over Wheeling Park at Wheeling Island Stadium earlier this season, believes the Big Reds’ schedule has them ready for the postseason.

“We started out 1-2, but we lost to Capital and Huntington, two teams that not many in the state can play with,” Byus said. “Then Cabell Midland, who was very similar to them, got us.

“Honestly, we had seven football games that we were in and we won all of them, the other three were against super-talented teams, and we struggled against them. But I am very proud of these kids, and how they bounced back from those losses and got things done.”

As for Goodrich, he is thrilled to have his team where it is and the veteran head coach knows the situation.

“It’s a 16-team field and a four-game season. The only thing is, if you lose it’s over,” Goodrich said. “This is a good matchup for us, and it’s also nice that we don’t have to drive clear across the state to play. They have a storied tradition in Parkersburg, but we are excited to go down there to play.

“This school hasn’t been in the playoffs in 10 years, when most of these seniors were just in elementary school, so there is so much energy with the team, the school, the community and all of the alumni. We are so happy to be able to give all of those people something to be excited about.”

Parkersburg has won the last seven meetings between the schools.

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